Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Bush Administration To Sacrifice Polar Bears To Big Oil

The Bush Administration announced yesterday that it will miss tomorrow's deadline on listing polar bears as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. No surprise, this is political. Bushco wants to grant an oil & gas lease for a 29-million-acre area of the Chukti Sea in Alaska.

If the polar bear is an endangered species, the Interior Department would have to consider the impact on the polar bear's habitat, and the sale probably doesn't go through. So they will grant the oil & gas lease, then list the polar bear as endangered: too late for the Chukti Sea region, though. Hello to more pollution and global warming, goodbye more polar bears.

While the comment period about the endangered species determination is closed, you can always blast the Interior Dept. for delaying the decision. Use this address to contact Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne:

Get involved

The official comment period for whether the polar bear should be considered a threatened species is closed. However, you can share your opinion about the newly announced delay by contacting the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Who: Dirk Kempthorne, secretary of the interior

Address: 1849 C St. NW, Washington, DC 20240

Phone: (202) 208-3100 or (800) 344-9453

Log comments at: www.doi.gov/contact.html

San Francisco Chronicle: Groups cite oil leases in U.S. delay on rating polar bear's status

Environmental groups fear that political meddling and a rush to sell oil leases in Arctic waters are behind the Bush administration's announcement Monday that it will miss a legal deadline to determine whether to list the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act.


Environmental groups fear that the polar bear decision has been purposefully delayed to allow a first-time oil lease sale to go forward Feb. 6 in Alaska's pristine Chukchi Sea, which provides one-tenth of the habitat for the world's polar bears.

Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, criticized the administration's decision to proceed with the 29 million-acre lease sale in the Chukchi.

"On the one hand, the Interior Department is dragging its feet on protecting the polar bear, while opening up new oil and gas drilling in sensitive polar bear habitats on the other," Markey said in a statement.

Andrew Wexler, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council in Chicago, said, "The one-month delay comes at a time that is very fortuitous for oil and gas companies that want to drill in the Chukchi."

If the bear were listed before the lease-sale decision, Interior Department's Minerals Management Service might have to delay or stop the sale, Wexler said.

Melanie Duchin, a Greenpeace campaigner in Alaska, agreed that the delay is highly suspect.

"You can't both protect the bear's habitat and drill in it at the same time," Duchin said.

"The sale would set up a one-two punch for the polar bear. On one hand, it would expose the bears to oil spills and all manner of industrial disturbance that comes along with exploration, drilling and transportation. Once those fossil fuels are burned, they exacerbate global warming and melt the polar bear's sea-ice habitat," she said.

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